Category Archives: Tea reflections

Ice tea anybody?

With summertime around the corner, ice tea will become a popular beverage for many people. All year around it is loved and enjoyed by many people in the US, although I have my reservation about the benefit of the run of the mill ice tea you get served in a normal restaurant. I have seen some positive exception about good quality ice tea and the trend is fortunately growing.

What is wrong with this ice tea? Sugar. Many regular diners in the US serve regular black tea (some are based on tea bags brewed quick and on the fly) and then add lots of sugar. So a non-calorie drink is now becoming a soda like calorie bomb filled with the white stuff.

But there is hope. You don’t have to desert to unsweetened ice tea (which is still the same cheap black tea bag infusion), but can have a zero-calorie sweet beverage which tastes fresh and healthy. How?

The secret is to use high quality loose leaf tea which comes with natural sweetness and does not add any calories to the drink. Try a popular Oolong tea called ‘Oriental Beauty’ (more specifically  Dongfang Meiren or Baihao) and you will get a wonderful fresh tea.

There are different avenues of making ice tea:

Cold brew

My favorite method as it brings out the essence of ice tea, however you should be patient as this brewing takes some time. It is a good candidate for overnight brewing with a fresh ice tea in the morning. Simply add tea to a glass container and put in the fridge and you should have a good mellow fresh tea in the morning. You will need to experiment a bit around, some teas take longer and some shorter to brew, but 4-6 hours should do the trick. I like the glass container as you can see the progress in the brewing process better based on the color of the tea. Try a couple batches and taste until you find the right fit for you. Cold brew takes out the edges in tea which you would get when hot brewing the tea.

 

Hot brew and cool down

Another method would be to brew the tea normal with hot water and then cool it down. Most interesting is the ‘glacier’ method by taking a

cup of ice cubes and pouring the hot tea over it. In terms of convenience and speed this is the best method and with a high quality loose leaf tea you get a fresh and vibrant ice tea. Make sure you use high quality water to brew the tea but also the ice cubes as they otherwise might influence the quality of the overall tea.

You can also let the tea stand after you brewed and add ice cubes later, that is up to you. It depends how much time you have.

Many retail and online companies are selling high quality loose leaf tea made for ice teas. These are special blends which will come with flowers or fruits and make for a perfect ice tea for your next party. Try them and you will not be disappointed. If you live in Europe, Mariage Freres has amazing Ice teas, if you are fortunate to live in Asia – TWG has a whole range of ice tea blends perfect for the summer. You can also try to make your own composition: try loose leaf green tea and add some fruit and herbs to make a taste that fits perfect for you. In summer time lemons and oranges are perfect to add to tea.

I hope these tips inspire you to try high quality loose leaf tea, even from the supermarket and try to make your own ice tea. Your taste buds and your guests will thank you.

Please feel free to reach out to me in case you have any questions.

 

 

 

 

Restarting the Man With a Mug Blog -80 Pounds Lighter!

It has been a while since my last blog post, which has mainly to do with my emergency response job at the World Food Programme here in Myanmar. Our response to battling hunger in this country is complex and requires dedicated effort and lots of time in remote locations.

In the back of my mind I continued to think about the blog and how it can add value to the tea community. And when I saw an article in a local paper, that a German tea company has placed a large order for Myanmar tea… I knew I had to start sharing my stories about this wonderful tea country again.

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30 Minutes of Tea Liberation

I often reflect back to the beginning of my tea studies.

Here I was in my kitchen in Rome, Italy, holding a thermometer in one hand and a tea timer in the other hand, nervously anticipating the right mix to get the optimal brew.

Fast forward now to my kitchen in Yangon, Myanmar, were I grab some tea leaves and throw it into hot water to get a wonderful cup of tea.

In a way the past year has liberated me from following the instructions on the box and use scientific instruments to make tea.

However the one area where I never felt liberated is how I always experienced buying tea.

In most shops a nice tea salesperson would carefully open a tin box based on my request and would allow me to have a careful glimpse into the box. In good stores they might let me smell the tea from a safe distance.

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My New Favorite Tea Companies – The Past (Part 1/2)

As I started my tea education and my more structured engagement in the tea community in Italy, I had a set of tea companies which I was very passionate about. This blog post will walk down memory lane and at the same time will show the dramatic transition I underwent over the past 12 months moving from the European tea world to the Asian Tea world.

The past

Tea life in Italy always has been a mix for me between tea salons, tea shops, local finds and the online tea world. My favorite local tea place in Rome has been Babbington’s, a wonderful place to relax and enjoy a high quality cup of tea or buy some nice loose leaf to take home. To this day I appreciate how patiently the staff at this tea room answered my questions and played along with my role play I did for my tea studies. Continue reading

5 Ways Myanmar’s Tea Culture is Unique and Exciting

My Tea Life in Myanmar – One Year In

It is hard to believe that I have now been living almost one year in Myanmar. Time is really flying by! While my life at the moment is mostly focused on my mission with the World Food Programme and the well being of my family, I did experience pockets of tea life over the past year.

I know my blog has not been very active this past year, but that is about to change. Seeing the World Tea Expo happening in Las Vegas I felt a renewed commitment to be a more active part of the tea community. My passion for tea is as strong as ever and I need to share some of my observations more frequently.

Here are my Top 5 observations one year into my tea life in Myanmar:

green tea
1.) Tea is everywhere and a big part of life. I started taking it for granted that with every corner you turn, tea is part of the culture in so many aspects.This goes beyond the tea as a classic drink, but tea as part of food, cosmetics and sweets. I slowly built a life where tea is an essential part of it. I wake up in the morning and shower with green tea shower gel. I make it a special moment of my morning to pick a special tea for the day, which I will sip at work over and over. (More on this in a separate blog post.) I eat a wonderful pickled tea leaf salad and munch on green tea chocolate sticks and have a green tea desert for dinner. So many choices and little moments of  tea joy in the day.

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coffe and tea

How to Learn Generosity From a Simple Cup of Courtesy Tea

Some thoughts over a cup of courtesy tea after living almost a year in Myanmar.

This is a guest post by Kristen Palana, aka: Michael’s wife, “Ms. Tea.”


It has been nearly a year now since I first moved to Yangon, Myanmar with my family. Initially I wondered if I would hate, like, or even love my new home. It’s one of the few places in my life that I moved to without having had the opportunity to visit first. (The other two were Edinburgh, Scotland and Los Angeles, CA. respectively.)

Inya Lake in Yangon

Inya Lake in Yangon

So over ten months in I can say with profound certainty that it is indeed love.  Yangon, Myanmar is the most happening city in all of Myanmar and yet it doesn’t suffer (yet) from choking smog or that boxed-in feeling you might get from Bangkok, Hong Kong, or New York City from an over abundance of giant skyscrapers blocking out the sun. Continue reading

Tea Reflections – Dark Teas, Like a Fine Wine

Dark Teas

I have experienced this type of tea both on my own time and in my studies, but it’s not a favorite type for Ms. Tea. I have a feeling that I will spend more time with these great brews in the future as I find the process of creating dark teas fascinating. It is also the only type which has a fermentation process included in the creation of the tea. It’s also the only type of tea which can be collected and stored to become better over time just like a fine bottle of wine.

52507585_puerhA large component of this category are Pu-erh teas and they come in all forms and shapes. Normally seen as little cakes or bird’s nests they have their own way of being brewed.

Some call it an ‘acquired’ taste, but several times I was able to prepare the most amazing tasting cup of tea. This tea benefits from multiple infusions similar to Oolongs and it is also advisable to use a Yixing clay tea pot to get the best results. Normally the first infusion or even infusions gets discarded to wash the tea and to wake up the leaves. I have also seen some exact opposite reports claiming that the first, unwashed infusion is the best and the purest. Some teas can give more than 30 infusions! I have read stories from tea houses that people gave up drinking but the tea leaves would still give flavor even after 30+ infusions!

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Tea Reflections – Black Teas, The World’s Most Popular Tea Type

Black Teas

Now this is probably the most common type of tea and most people in the world and mostly in the western world are used to some sort of black tea. Known as red tea in China, it can range quite a bit in quality – from the stuff that makes it into the tea bag up to a high quality loose leaf tea.

26883839_darjeeling

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Tea Reflections – Oolong Tea – Mysterious and Complex

Oolong Teas

Enter the amazing world of Oolong teas. Oolong teas are semi oxidized in a wide range from low (20%) to high (80%). This type of tea means “little dragon,” due to its twisted shape of the tea leaf, a leaf shape you find for some Chinese Oolong teas.

This tea type is normally not just for the quick cuppa. It has the amazing ability to be infused many times and that is part of the journey with this tea. The aroma and flavor with each infusion is changing slightly with different balances on the flavor scale. It is like a dance on your palate.

ceremonial_teaMy most special tea is an oolong , Gardenia Dan Cong, what I call my ceremonial tea. You will find a previous blog post on this site describing this amazing tea in more detail.

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Tea Reflections -Yellow Tea, Rare and Precious

Yellow Tea

This type of tea is still fairly rare and is treated like gold in our family. Almost completely unknown to the western world just a few years ago it is now gaining more popularity and more types are making it into the stores.

Yinzhen_yellowWhat makes Yellow teas different than Green teas is an additional step in the processing called sweltering. The leaves get a nice cozy wrap, normally some sort of cloth, which gives them the unique yellow color. The result is a tea which is more mellow and less vegetal that some of the green teas. It has an amazing rounded and balanced fruit flavor with an amazing mouth feel. There are very few true yellow tea masters left who know the process of making this kind of tea so there is the risk that this art might disappear.

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